The US marine arrested in June for allegedly punching and raping a 19-year-old Japanese woman in Okinawa pleaded guilty yesterday to charges of rape and assault, reported Reuters. The incident, coming amidst ongoing sexual assault scandals at the US Air Force Academy and US Naval Academy, again highlights the persistent problem of sexual violence in the military. According to reports by the Okinawa Police, lance corporal Jose Torres allegedly punched the woman in the face, breaking her nose and then raped her on the street, reported the Associated Press. While the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which details legal rights for US military personnel in Japan does not require the US to hand over suspects until they are indicted, a Japan-US Joint Committee in June agreed on Torres’ immediate transfer, given the nature of the crime. US and Japanese officials are in talks this week, negotiating details in SOFA that pertain to the treatment of US servicemen accused of crimes in Japan, according to Reuters.
Sexual violence by the US military strikes sensitive chords among Okinawan residents, who in 1995 witnessed the gang rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US servicemen. Inhabitants of the small Japanese island, which hosts over half of the nearly 50,000 US troops stationed in Japan, have repeatedly called for a reduction in US military presence.